Remarkable new insights are being discovered about gut health and its relationship with human wellness and disease. One of the most notable contributors to this evolving area of science is Dr. Steven R. Gundry. As a cardiothoracic surgeon practicing for more than 40 years, Dr. Gundry applied his expertise and experience in novel ways. Today, he is internationally recognized for his insights on lectins, “leaky gut,” and the effects of a healthy human microbiome.
In addition to his remarkable experiences as a surgeon, Dr. Gundry has conducted extensive research. Likewise, he is a best-selling author of The Plant Paradox and Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. Both books expose how lectins and the microbiome are highly relevant in either promoting wellness or disease in human beings. Bold Business was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Dr. Gundry to discuss these issues further.
Bold Business Associate Publisher John R. Miles Interviewed Dr. Steven R. Gundry to Gain a Deeper Perspective on the Gut Microbiome and its Impact on Our Health.
John R. Miles: Bold Business is currently doing a series on Gut Health. We have already published stories on gut health and its link to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, irritable bowel syndrome, cardiac health, and chronic disease. We also discovered how poultry, emulsifiers, and dairy are impacting gut microbiome imbalance. When researching the stories, we found that gut health is under-reported, and in fact, many institutions are putting out contrary data? Why?
Dr. Gundry: There are several reasons. The modern medical school curriculum is dominated by the concepts of disease identification, not prevention. The schools for decades have taught doctors how pharmaceutical solutions or medical devices can fix an issue, fight a disease, replace a heart, a joint or a tendon. Until the human microbiome project was published, we didn’t listen to the fact that all disease begins in the gut and the importance of prevention.
We are recognizing now that all medical schools and medicine was structured around disease and organs. There was little communication or teaching about these alternative ways to view health. It was not until doctors and scientists like Dr. Dale Bredesen (who specializes in preventing and reversing Alzheimer) and I published our theories.
Today, it is shocking how we did not realize that things in the brain arise from the things we put into the gut. Instead of being focused on amyloidosis of the brain, we should have recognized that brain health was directly related to what happens in the gut and its proper balance. I honestly think a lot of it came down to the egos of many in the medical field. With a body as complex as the human body, so-called experts could not believe that one cell organisms (gut microbiota) could possibly have such a profound impact on human health.
Many thought that these microbiota are just five to six pounds of cells and nothing more. What the human microbiome project revealed was that thousands of species are living in our guts. In fact, on February 4, 2019, scientists discovered 100 completely new species of bacteria. These new bacteria will help in the ongoing research that explains how the human microbiome keeps us healthy and their role in chronic disease.
JM: What do you consider some of your most significant experiences and your biggest discoveries concerning the benefits of gut microbiome?
Dr. Gundry: I was fortunate enough to get trained in transplant immunology because of our neonatal heart transplant work. We would take a pig’s heart and transplant it into a baboon. This was very intense cross-species work. What we realized was that the proteins that are lining a pig are far different than those that in a baboon, and for that matter, in a human. So, we had to invent ways to tell the immune system not to react to these foreign proteins and to accept them.
After my first book, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, I mentioned a few auto-immune patients who had done well. Suddenly, my office was filled with people who had an auto-immune disease. I did not know a lot about auto-immune disease, but I knew a ton about the immune system. I had no profound training or pre-conceived conclusions, which turned out to be a huge blessing. This allowed me to focus on the problem without any blinders.
We now know the gut microbiome is essential in educating the body’s immune system. As a foreign protein enters the gut, the body can be taught what it should and shouldn’t be interested in. In my work, that is where the rubber meets the road. I discovered that if we can get a happy and diverse microbiome, then we can then seal the gut wall. This would then tell the immune system to chill out.
My father’s family had severe psoriasis, and my father was given Methotrexate to treat his condition for 50 years. Methotrexate suppresses the immune system and has many side effects. What we have now discovered is that this type of potent therapy for severe autoimmune conditions isn’t what’s needed. Instead, what is really required is a healthy microbiome. The bottom line is that an intact and diverse microbiome, and keeping lectins out of the diet, is extremely important for a happy immune system.
JM: How does gut health impact obesity and diabetes?
Dr. Gundry: We know now that there is an obesogenic biome. These bacteria are actually capable of extracting more calories from the food that you consume and pass them onto your body. This has been proven in multiple human studies. I talk about this in the Plant Paradox and in my upcoming book.
These obesogenic bacteria influence your appetite and the foods they want. In general, they are looking for saturated fats, complex carbohydrates, and simple sugars. That is what they want. They literally send text messages to your brain to seek these things out, and that is why you have desires for them. On the other hand, we know there are skinny or good bacteria that have the opposite effect. They take the calories you consume and make baby bacteria that grow and divide.
This may sound rather gross, but we see this good balance in healthy bacteria occurring because your feces become very large. As I discuss in my book, you will know everything is right when you see a “giant coiled snake” looking back at you. This is a really interesting observation because this indicates that these bacteria taking in food for themselves.
If you foster a diverse gut population or a rainforest of bacteria, there is conclusive scientific proof it will produce longer life-span and longer health span. Once you eat for the good bacteria, they will send text messages to your brain of what they want. My meat and potato people come to me and say they now crave vegetables and smoothies. They are no longer controlled by a set of bad microbes that is controlling their behavior.
JM: What is your thought about probiotics and therapeutic grade probiotics?
Dr. Gundry: My belief is that the vast majority of probiotics never make it through the acidic environment in your stomach and into your intestine. There are several spore-forming bacteria. None of these probiotics are members of the human microbiome. They are visitors on vacation. It is very true though that they can have very beneficial effects even though they are just “vacationing.”
Let’s look at probiotics in another way. Consider them as grass seed. What if I were to sell some grass seed here in the desert where I live. You, as my customer, come back and say you sold me bad grass seed because it didn’t grow. I then start asking, “Did you water it? Did you fertilize it?” Assuming the answer was no, then I would question why you expected it to grow if you did not nourish it. In order for probiotics to really work, they have to be fertilized with prebiotics. We have to give good bacteria what they need to eat.
Jack LaLanne, the fitness and health guru, always said: “If it tastes good, then spit it out.” You have to eat for the good bacteria and give them what they need. Usually the cravings for sugar, carbohydrates, etc. are the bad bacteria sending signals to your brain.
JM: You are famous for saying that lectins are the root cause of inflammation and disease. Why is that?
Dr. Gundry: I see a lot of ill people who eat a lot of foods that are high in lectins. Like all living organisms, plants want to survive and do not want to be eaten. They have a life and want their seeds to succeed and prosper. The lectins are a major part of the plant’s system toward survival and are a poison that makes their predators ill.
Think of it this way. For a very long time, traditional cultures have had great detox programs like fermentation. The traditional way of making beans is that ancient cultures would soak beans for 48 hours and pour the water out several times to cleans the beans. We know today that lectins are cleansed when the beans are soaked. These people would then further cook the beans in pots over two days to get the lectins out even more thoroughly.
The Italians have always removed the seeds from their peppers and tomatoes. The Native Americans treated corn with lye to get the lectins out. All these traditional cultures had these teachings which they would pass down through the generations. Unfortunately, in today’s more nomadic and fast-paced culture, we no longer have this education being passed down generation to generation. Instead, we take shortcuts for convenience and use antibiotics, pesticides, and other things to speed up the process.
The other thing we have failed to appreciate is that we have actually destroyed our microbiome through our modern diets. Our diet is actually wearing down the acid defense which is crucial in fighting the effects of lectins. We are destroying this natural defense system by all the antibiotics which are being overprescribed and from the antibiotics that used in our food chain.
My simple example is that a head of lettuce may look like a head of lettuce. But the lettuce you buy today in the stores are not likely the same we ate 100 years ago. We are contaminating our food supply.
JM: What is a lectin and why would you advise our readers to avoid them? What does Lectin Shield do for the body?
Dr. Gundry: I developed Lectin Shield because we know scientifically what lectins are looking for in sugar molecules. Lectin Shield contains sugar molecules that lectins bind to. Let’s face it. People are going to cheat or run into lectins in restaurants or when visiting a friend’s home. The idea is not to cheat but to give you a way to protect yourself the best way you can.
Some people think it is a license to cheat. That is not the way I look at it. Let’s say I take a trip to Italy with their highly carbohydrate and tomato-based diet. I take two Lectin Shield before every meal. Normally, I take 2 in the morning and 2 at night every day. If I am going out, I take them just before the meal.
JM: I started taking Vital Reds every day a year ago. I feel I have better energy with it in my daily life. If there was one product you would encourage our readers to take, what would it be?
Dr. Gundry: I like the double whammy of Vital Reds and a prebiotic like Gundry MD PrebioThrive. I made my formula of prebiotics that are actually the foods good bacteria like to eat. It was formulated to do just that. I mix the two together.
JM: What advice do you have for individuals in teaching them to live healthier lives through diet and lifestyle choices? My daughter is 15 and has been a vegetarian for over four years. Is this diet healthy? I read The Plant Paradox and it points out that certain toxins are not great for the body. What are they and what would you advise a person to do?
Dr. Gundry: If you read between the lines, The Plant Paradox is actually a secret vegan diet. When I hit my peak weight at 220 pounds, I was eating a healthy vegetarian diet, and I could not figure out why I was gaining weight. It was not until I realized that the normal American vegetarian diet (pasta, protein, grains, beans) actually goes against all vegetarian creatures.
Consider that an elephant, ape, or horse get all their nutrition from leaves or grass. Just look at a gorilla who has more muscle mass than we will ever have. What I try to do is create gorillas in Italy per se. I encourage people to eat lots of leaves, lots of vegetables, and not a lot of fruits. I then recommend they smother them in olive oil.
Dr. Gundry’s Diet and Promoting Positive Gut Health
A healthy microbiome and gut health are the keys to lifelong health and wellness. As described by Dr. Gundry, avoiding lectins and providing “good” gut bacteria what they need is very important. This means going beyond the avoidance of gluten. It also means identifying lectins in all foods and protecting your body from them.
Lectins are found in many plants, including corn, rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, soybeans, and various legumes. However, this does not necessarily mean you must eliminate these foods completely to have good gut health. But it does require special preparation in some cases and avoidance in others. Key insights provided by Dr. Steven R. Gundry reveal just how important our microbiome is advancing good gut health. As his books have described, gut health is the essential factor in promoting better wellness and reducing disease moving forward.
To learn more about Dr. Gundry, read our Bold Leader Spotlight on him.